Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Fishing at "Bandaberie",Dalmore.

I have written about the Gearraidh in previous posts,that beautiful, green and fertile part of Dalmore,a land of old corn mills, and at times home to the "iolaire",the majestic golden eagle. It is,however,a place in which one never feels at ease, and I'm not sure why! The Gearraidh pushes out into the Atlantic Ocean in a promontory at "Rudha an Trileachain"(headland of the oyster catchers ),and how well named it is. The rocks here are strewn with the shells of mussels and limpets,but gey few oysters. You see,the bulk of the island's shellfish leaves for France and Spain in giant refrigerated lorries. "Round the corner" from this point and flanking the wild beach of "Sheilagadh"is a sea rock called "Bandaberie",a favoured plinth for sea fishing with the "slat"(bamboo rod),yielding good catches,but it is an exceedingly treacherous place. Not for nothing was "Bandaberie" feared by the women of Dalmore.
To access the site,you had to climb down a near vertical rock face(about 20 feet down),and carrying the "slat",that could be difficult. However,there were enough finger and toe holds to ease your descent. Strong sea currents swirled around the rock from which we fished,and the top of the rock was only inches above the sea. You always had to be mindful of those freak waves that crashed over the rock,and be prepared to abandon your position. These bamboo rods were 20-25 feet long,and a strong twine,tied at the top,ran down the length of the rod(no reel needed here). Attached to the end of the line was a cast of 6 or 7 flies made from large hooks and white seagull feathers. Cold boiled potato left over from the "tatties and herring" lunch would be squashed in the hand and this ground bait tossed into the clear waters of the "geotha". Within a few minutes,the long bamboo("slat")would be arching over with the great strain on the line,and you could see perhaps 6 or 7 fish down in the waters below. While in the water,this heavy catch was buoyed by the upthrust(Archimedes'Principle,you recall),but when the fish were pulled from the water,you had a seething mass of disparate forces acting in every direction,including up. The only thing that might be considered art, was landing every last fish on the rocks behind you. You then had to "dehook" every fish,and stick them in the brown hessian bag, On Bandaberie, it was rare to catch any fish except the "cuidaig"(cuddy/small saithe)or the"saighean"(saithe/coal fish). The only thing which limited your catch(or enthusiasm) was the knowledge that you had to get a heavy bag of fish up that near vertical cliff,and then transport it nearly a mile over hill and dale. Then,of course,the fish had to be gutted and washed.
These fresh fish, fried in the morning's bacon fat,and served with Stag bread and butter and a mug of tea, was a meal to savour. I wonder if anyone still fishes at Bandaberie,or knows how to get down there. I doubt it.
Domhnull Lamont and my uncle Norman(Tormod Glass)fished on Bandaberie a great deal,and installed a rope/wire ladder there, which afforded easier access to the site.

P.S. Tamra (U.S.A.) Thanks for your comment. D.J.Maclennan.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Donald Macleod("Glass") Dies,Aged 92 years

It was a lovely April day and old "Bodach Glass" decided to take a gentle stroll,perhaps as far as the "traigh"(shore). His daughter Dollag agreed,exhorting him to be careful and to take his time.The old man set out across the "stairean"(path to house) with his "bata" in hand, Some time later in the afternoon,Domhnull Chalum had awakened after "forty winks" in his chair at No.8. He told his wife that he had a mind to take a walk into the shore. "O a'ghraidh,you have not been in there in years". "Well,I feel like taking a walk in there now", Donald replied. He was now in his late 80s,so each step was measured and taken slowly, down the road, past the cemetery and the "allt"(river) to the shore.
Anyone who knows Dalmore beach is aware of the large rounded stones situated half way along the traigh,where Allt Dhailamor empties into the sea. It was here, from a point above the river, that Domhnull Chalum discovered his old friend "Glass" lying prostrate on the stones. Donald set out back to the village to alert folk of the situation. Finding Glass on the stones,has given rise to two possible scenarios. The first of these is that Glass was making his way across the stones when his foot became trapped under some boulders. He was too weak to extricate his foot,and seeing the incoming tide approaching ever nearer,he feared he might drown and suffered a massive stroke. The second,and more probable scenario,is that he suffered a stroke and fell on the rocks. However it happened,a stroke was diagnosed by the doctor.
Villagers followed Shonnie with the horse and cart,which was lined with bales of hay,and Old Glass was removed from there to his own house at No.5 Dalmore. There in his bed,where I often heard him pray long and fervently to his Lord,Donald Macleod,my Grandpa, passed away peacefully on the 30th April,1953 aged 92 years.

Friday, 15 August 2008

"Glass". A Fearless Old Bodach.

The two incidents related here,though small in themselves,demonstrates the fearlessness of my grandfather,"Glass",even at his advanced age. In fairness,he was a fairly fit old gentleman,albeit he now carried a walking stick to steady his gait.
Shonnie had gathered together some sheep in a small impromptu fank,high up on croft No.9 under Beinn Dhalamor. Shonnie was dealing with some sheep helped by one of my aunts. I was standing just outside the "gate" of the fank,beside my grandfather,when a ram leaped over the gate,and with its large horns,struck my grandad square on his chest. Old Glass fell back,but as the ram continued over him,he held out his "bata" and its crook locked with one of its horns.As the ram was subdued,I heard the bodach utter the word "salachar"(filth)
One afternoon,I was sitting with my grandpa Glass and his old pal Domhnull Chalum on some seats down by the roadside at No.8. Two or three of the younger men were in attendance. The gate for the village was out the road at No.10(we called it "geata na Cnamhean"),and should always have been kept closed to stop animals making their way into the rich machair pastures and the cemetery. The sound of "thunder" drew our attention to a cloud of dust out the road,and emerging out of this were the three village horses coming in the road at a full gallop. Someone had left the gate open and our equine friends were heading into the shore. Nobody moved, and seeing these three stallions bearing down on us,it seemed the sensible thing to do. But no one could have foreseen what happened next. Glass got up and shuffled out to the middle of the road,and shouting and waving his arms and bata about,like a man possessed,the horses took one look at this wild old bodach and came to a sudden halt.One of the younger men saw the horses out the road,and shut the gate. The generational gap was beginning to show, even back then.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

"Glass" buys the Premier House Clock.

On the only visit "Glass",my grandfather,made to Renfrew(that I'm aware of),he was staying in Hairst(harvest)Street with his married daughter Kate,my aunt.This was around the early 1930s. Kate's tenement house was directly opposite Ross's Premier House,which was a large two-storey furniture store,also selling household "fancy goods". Bodach Glass was on the look out for a quality wall clock to take back to Dalmore. Glass knew that the Premier House had a good selection of clocks for sale, and finally paid a visit to their shop across the road. He was confronted by a large selection of clocks of all types and sizes,but almost immediately he knew of the one he wanted. This was a fine half-size case clock in dark hardwood,which chimed the hour and the half hour. It had an elegant,yet simple face and the pendulum lay behind a door of wood and bevelled glass. The salesman endeavoured to interest him in other clocks,but every time Glass made it plain that his mind was made up. "I'm sorry,sir but that clock is not for sale. You see,sir,that is the shop's clock". No matter,Glass told him that it was that clock,or none at all. Consultations followed,and one might have heard the manager say "A sale is a sale". Glass was very proud of his clock and on the way back to Lewis by train and boat,he carried it, held firmly on his lap(with the pendulum removed). As stated elsewhere,only the bodach saw to "his" clock in Dalmore,which he wound once a week,always on the same day. This clock is still keeping time and chiming away on the kitchen wall at No.7 Dalmore. The care taken by Glass with his clock to an extent mirrors the great care his wife Mary took in carrying her sewing machine from Garenin to Dalmore.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

My Mother is Employed by Madam at the Club.

My mother,Anna Glass,was born in Garenin in 1911,the youngest of a family of nine children. When she was 12 years old,she went with her family to their new croft in Dalmore,but a large part of her heart was left behind in Garenin,which she would freely admit. Like most girls of that ilk and time,she followed the herring fleets from Lerwick to Lowestoft, but earlier had worked as a maid in Taigh a'Bhaicair in Carloway,which also involved her helping out in the shop,adjacent to the Baker's house. In the early 1930s,my mother left for Glasgow to seek employment there,in service, like thousands of fine girls from the Highlands and Islands. It was during this time that a friend of hers from Lewis,told my mother of the grand position she had in the New Club,a gentleman's club located in Glasgow's city centre. This was the foremost and most exclusive club in Glasgow,the equal of any in London. It had in its membership the top lawyers and industrialists,people like Sir Peter Coats of the thread family, the two Weir brothers(Weirs of Cathcart) and R.W.Forsyth the Glasgow retailers. My mother went for a job at the New Club,and was seen by a Miss Dick,who was in overall charge, managing the club, and who had her own suite of rooms within the building. She was the daughter of a doctor in Burghead near Inverness,and with her background, was suited to her position of looking after such fine gentlemen. She was known by club members and staff alike as "Madam". My mother was taken on as a waitress,and working there at the New Club,was like working at Buckingham Palace,but with nicer people. She shared the good news with her older sister Kate,married and living in Renfrew. She wrote a letter to her mother and father back in Dalmore,extolling the grandeur of the club,and the kindness of "Madam". Bodach Glass had not been further than Peterhead,but the words "club" and "madam" had an unwholesome ring to them. It was not,they agreed,a place for their Annie to work in,no matter how grand she found it. A letter expressing their concerns was dispatched to my mother in Glasgow forthwith. It took a visit by my Auntie Kate to the New Club,and a long letter from Miss Dick(no mention was made of "madam") before Old Glass and Mairi Ruadh were satisfied that their youngest daughter was not employed in a house of ill-repute.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Glass,Radio Luxemburg and a Barrel of Whisky.

I was 12 year old when "Glass" died,but still have vivid memories of him. I have recounted previously that I always slept behind the bodach "up in the room",that I was privy to his long prayers to God,that he "took the book" every night without exception and that he closely resembled the King's father,King George V.
His people had remained with the established church(Church of Scotland)at the Disruption which took place back in 1843, giving rise to the Free Church, which the vast majority of Lewis people joined. I remember my grandfather,Glass, dressing for church,three piece black suit,white shirt,black tie,highly polished boots and fob watch and chain across his middle. The last thing before leaving was to stand in front of mirror by the room door,and gently comb the royal white beard. He had been an elder of his church in Carloway for many years,and strangely he had a doppelganger there in the Carloway church, in the person of the Carloway Postmaster,"Am Post Mhor". They really were alike,elders of their church and men of a certain standing. The "Eaglais Saor" lacked the gravitas of such men.
I think that Glass might have been termed a liberal of the Church,but in truth, most people outwith the Free Church were looked upon as such, adhering to some dangerous heresies of the "distant past". Glass,you'll remember,allowed us city boys to listen to Radio Luxemburg's "Top Twenty" at 11.00 pm on a Sunday night. "O mo gradh ort". Unlike "Shoudie", my other grandfather, Glass neither smoked nor drank(ie.alcohol)but saw no reason to denounce others who did. During the war, Glass found a barrel of whisky bobbing about on the surf on Dalmore beach. There was no need to worry the hard pressed customs' men,so Glass had the barrel removed to his barn by horse and cart, under the watchful eye of a couple of interested old friends in the village. "Dhe a'seo",they must have wondered. Well,they would discover shortly. Glass would invite Shoudie and Domhnull Chalum over to No.5 each day after lunch(except Sunday,of course - he wasn't that much of a liberal). Glass would excuse himself and head for the "sobhal",where the "uisge beatha" was secreted under the hay,draw off two good measures and return to his pals,who never once made a comment,but they did wonder about Glass's way with water and whisky. The conversations these afternoons were highly enjoyable and at times frivolous,despite the war and its privations. Shoudie must have hoped that Glass could change a few dockin leaves into tobacco! These afternoon get-togethers would last quite a while - well,until the barrel ran dry.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Mairi Ruadh and Miss Darling of Stornoway

Glass's wife was Mary Macneil(Mairi Dhomhnaill Fhionnlaigh),but she was always known as "Mairi Ruadh" (Red haired Mary). Born in Garenin like her husband,my grandmother came over to Dalmore when she was 50 years old, to take charge of a new home in a new village,without the support of her kith and kin in Garenin. She died in 1940,aged 69,so that anything I know of her was gleaned from the stories told to me by mother,aunts and others who knew her well. Mairi Ruadh was a woman of strong character,an imposing figure who had the love and respect of her family. She had the fine looks and hair colour of the Macneils. As a young lass,she was in service at a manse in Tarbert,Harris before marrying Glass at the young age of 19 years. As we have seen,Mary prepared wool for weavers in Garenin,including her husband. Her most prized possession in her home was an early model Singer sewing machine and with this she could run up men's trousers,jackets and a variety of ladies apparel. Mary was well known in the district for her prowess at sewing,and many were the favours she did for other people. When,in 1923,the family's goods and chattels were being moved by road to their new home in Dalmore,Mary was so afraid that her sewing machine would be damaged in the cart,that she carried the machine,strapped to her back,the 3 miles over the hills to Dalmore. That was some feat, which shows how much she valued her Singer sewing machine.
The following story involves my grandmother in the late 1920s,and in a strange way it has a resonance in the present. By about 1927, Mairi Ruadh had her new home to her liking,and her youngest Annie(Anna Glass,aged 16)had captured the heart of Alasdair Shoudie the "best looking lad in the whole district"(her very words to me). Even back then,Dalmore,and especially the beach,proved a great attraction to visitors, and in particular two people who came quite often to Dalmore in a "horse and gig" all the way over from Stornoway. These were "duine uasail"(toffs,if you will)as their clothes would attest. The lady wore a beautiful coat,trimmed with fur,a fur hat and expensive shoes.Her gentleman friend wore plus fours and brogues and his bonnet matched his jacket. In case one might think this to be fiction,we have photographs taken by the "duine uasail's" own camera - no one in Dalmore had a camera in 1927! One afternoon in late summer,our family were down at the "feannaig"(strip field) beside the road making stooks of the corn,when these two people stopped to chat. Mairi Ruadh invited them over to the house for a "copan the",and maybe some scones and pancakes. It transpired that the lady was a Miss Darling,who taught at Stornoway Primary School. After that, she and the man in plus fours often stopped off at 5 Dalmore to visit Mairi Ruadh and sample the very best home baking this side of Stornoway.
Now fast forward from 1927 to around 1994,and there was I, parked at the ferry terminal at Uig in Skye,waiting for the "Hebrides" to transport me to Lewis(via Harris,of course). A family pulled up in their car abreast of me,and the driver was immediately recognisable(white hair and jet black bushy eyebrows) as that able young Labour MP for Edinburgh Central,Alistair Darling. It was some time later,thinking of that name "Darling" that I made the connection between that man in the car and Miss Darling of 1927. She was possibly the Chancellor of the Exchequer's great aunt.
If the Chancellor gets wind of my blog,then maybe he will invite me to No.11 for scones and pancakes. And when he holidays in Lewis,as he often does,and he takes his family to Dalmore,he might want to glance across at the ruin at No.5,where two fine ladies,the Miss Darling and the Mistress Macleod once took tea together.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

" Glass". Crofter,Weaver and Fisherman.

Glass,my grandfather,was an industrious man,who never let the grass grow under his feet. He was a great provider for his family,and in that regard,he was willing to turn his hand to many different jobs. In the first place he was a crofter on the five acres at 5 Dalmore, and happy he must have been to rent this croft here in the "Dailean",which recently had been Padruig Sinclair's sheep farm. He was also a weaver,weaving tweed on a wooden hand loom,which I can remember was stored in the "sobhal" (barn) at No.5, possibly hoping to be ressurected, if that new fankled iron loom proved a failure. Alas,alas old friend! These tweeds were made into blankets by his wife Mary,who was in business(in a small way) with a friend, Catherine Macleod,when they were still in Garenin.From time to time,Glass wove tweeds for the mills in Stornoway. He was reckoned to be a fine weaver in these days.
Glass was also a fisherman on one of the local sailing boats of the "Carloway Fleet",based at the Dunan. He was a crew member of the 21 ton "Press Home",owned by his cousin "Gherry" (Duncan Macleod). This was in the years 1880-1890,when there were 26 boats fishing all year round, out of Loch Carloway. Later,Glass would own his own boat,"The Plover" (SY 571),around 1890. At other times,he followed the fishing season over on the east coast of Scotland with Shoudie's brother, " Domhnull Drobhair" (Donald Maclennan,9 Garenin). These two men were lifelong friends. These sail boats operated 3 miles out to sea, and used the large line,each line bearing 1,000 hooks,baited with eel(sometimes halibut!).They were after ling which was a highly prized fish back in these days. A common daily return for these boats might be 500/600 ling and they were sold for 7 or 8 pence(old money)each. The ling had to measure 2 and a half feet,"eye to tail" or failing that, 2 ling for one.
I was told the following story about Glass,"eithear Gherry" and a colossal catch of ling,which occurred in the distant past. It seems that Glass ,with a crew of 5 or 6 in "eithear Gherry"(Gherry's boat)went out very early one morning to fish for ling using the large lines,and according to the storyteller,they struck gold almost immediately. The boat was up to the gunwales(or is it rowlocks)in an abundance of ling. They got their catch to the market just as it opened,and their catch commanded a record price for those times. Glass suggested that if they all put their shares of the money together,they would be in a position to buy the boat from the owner,Gherry,if he was in agreement. He was,and the ownership transferred to "Glass & Co". Well that's the story,and maybe that's how the "Press Home" became "The Plover" - maybe!

Friday, 8 August 2008

"Glass" and his wife "Mairi Ruadh".

As mentioned elsewhere,my grandfather,Donald Macleod ("Glass"),was born in Garenin in 1860, and was one of the Macleods whose ancestors first settled in the Sithean,the small hamlet below the present Garenin road. Garenin grew into a sizable village,with "Macleod" the predominant surname. In 1890,Glass,a young man of 30 years,married his sweetheart,Mary Macneil,aged just 19, who stayed out the road at No.14. She had striking red hair, and because of this my grandmother was always known as "Mairi Ruadh". Their first marital home was in the small building which today houses the "laundry" in the Garenin Thatched Village. In 1904 he moved to Croft No.4 where he had built a house on a relative's croft(his father,Norman's,I think).This is "Taigh Glass",No.4A,one of the thatched houses which today can be rented from the Garenin Trust. As we have seen in earlier postings,Glass acquired the newly created croft at No.5 Dalmore in 1920,and the whole family moved there in 1923. Dalmore was just a couple of miles up the coast,which was just as well as many of the children(my mother told me) were very homesick for Garenin,and were always making return visits there to see their cousins and friends. Two of Glass's nine children never lived to see the home in Dalmore,his son Donald who died in Holland in 1916 during WWI(see earlier postings),and Christina who died from tuberculosis in 1912,aged only 19 years. My mother said that "Cairistiona" was a very Christian girl,and that in the last week before she died in December,she wakened once and said to her mother that she would dearly love a piece of fresh fish, "A'Ghraidh,this is the middle of winter,and there are no boats out",said her mother. "God will provide,I am sure",replied Cairistiona. Her brother Norman,then aged 9,was out on the moor behind Garenin when he saw a strange thing indeed. There in a peat bog,jumping and flapping about,was a good sized sole,which could only have been transported there by some seabird,whose bill was unable to hold on to the "leabag" before Norman lifted it. Every one was amazed at what happened,except Christina.
Glass was 60 when he moved to Dalmore and 63 before he saw his house built and his wife and children settled there. How many nowadays could start a new life, at what is at present an age to retire. They don't make them like "Glass" and "Mairi Ruadh" anymore,and they have not done so for a very long time,I think.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Clann 'ic Iain. "Long" and "Glass"

My maternal grandfather, Donald Macleod,was known as "Glass",and this monicker.if ever understood,was forgotten in the mists of time. But, he would always be known as "Glass",somewhat neater than his "sloinneadh" in Gaelic, "Domhnall Thormoid 'an 'ic Iain". "Sloinneadh" means surname in English, but it conveys a lot more information than the anglicised surname "Macleod",which is a clan name shared by hundreds of thousands of people the world over. However this simple lineage explains Glass's "slionneadh" in Gaelic,of course.
Iain(John Macleod b.~1760)--> Mac Iain(John Macleod b.~1790)--> Tormod 'an 'ic Iain(Norman Macleod b.1824)--> Domhnall Thormoid 'an 'ic Iain(Donald Macleod b.1860 ie.GLASS).
Iain Shoudie,a Maclennan uncle,and a nonsense rhymster,used to sing a little ditty to me as a young boy, which made some allusion to a physical characteristic inherited from my Macleod side.The last line of the ditty was
"Ha sron clann 'ic Iain air an Dhada". Whatever he observed,I (Dada)could see nothing peculiar about my nose.
I remember when (in 1951)I was 10 years old being taken to see the only other survivor of Glass's siblings,his brother Duncan,known as "Long",who was on his death bed in his old style black house at No.18 Gearrannan.This was a very old design of "taigh dubh",with the long axis of the house perpendicular to the hill and following its slope downhill. There was only one door which was used by people and animals alike,and the interior was "open plan". There was no "tallan" to separate man and beast. Just inside the door on the right was the well supplied by a spring.I don't know if this was unusual in a house of this vintage ie. first find yourself a spring and then build your house around it! There were no windows at all,and the fire burned in the middle of the rough clay floor.There was a gap in the thatch above the fire,which allowed some of the smoke out, and a small amount of daylight in,by which one could just see "Long".I do remember some people around his bed who were probably close relatives like my mother,one of many nieces("Long" and his wife,Catherine,had no children of their own). There was a cupboard and a few chairs, and the box bed on which "Long" was lying. At the lower end of the house was a large amount of cow manure,which would have been cleared out in spring, if Duncan had been a fit man. My abiding memory of "Taigh Long" was one of great poverty,and yet, many people who lived in these black houses reared large families and lived to a good age. "Long" lived all of 89 years,and his brother Glass died a year later in 1953,aged 92 years - poor in some things,rich in the things that matter.